As my husband and I were watching Downton Abbey last night, towards the beginning of the episode he remarked “I wonder how long they can keep this show going for. I mean, they’ll eventually have to kill off the Dowager, but they could go as far as WWII” We discussed the ways in which Downton would change.
You see, Downton Abbey is one of those shows that both my husband and I can agree on. Yes, it’s a soap opera, yes, it is incredibly silly. But as people who love British television, and enjoy Upstairs Downstairs politics, it’s a pretty great soap opera for us to watch.
Until this week’s episode. (PS. Spoiler Alert.)
Last night towards the end of the episode Anna Bates was raped by a random valet visiting from another house. Yes. A rape. In Downton Abbey. We’ve certainly had characters die, we’ve certainly seen characters in prison. But it has never been what this episode was.
A completely unnecessary use of rape as a plot device. And that plot? I can’t watch it.
The rape itself was graphic, and violent, and was clearly meant to be a punishment for Anna being flirtatious, or for that matter, even friendly. And the aftermath, of Anna sobbing in Mrs. Hughes’ room, covered in blood. Of her hair mussed and her dress ripped. Of her choice not to tell her husband.
I cannot watch. I as a survivor cannot watch a series devolve into a story about how a rape survivor refuses to tell her husband. I can’t watch a series where this is a minor plot point designed to shock.
I can’t watch Downton Abbey anymore and it makes me angry.
Downton Abbey was a place where I didn’t have to worry about this shit. Yes, rape happened frequently in that era. Women’s bodies weren’t respected, but I given previous seasons I wasn’t expecting Julian Fellowes to become SO concerned with historical accuracy that he chooses to have a rape occur.
This was yet another example of how women’s stories can only be told if they are told about rape. This is yet another example of how I can never be positive that there WON’T be a rape in the media I consume.
I didn’t sleep well last night. I had to cuddle my dinosaur so tight when I slept. I took xanax and my husband talked to me until it kicked in. I was Not Okay after watching it.
I’m still not really okay.
Soon, I will be. But until the screams, and the thuds of punches landing, and the feeling on my skin of not feeling safe go away, I’ll be over here with my dinosaur watching My Little Pony, Friendship & Magic.
Because at least there, I know I won’t be assaulted during my Fluffy Television Time with completely vile and revolting plots designed to shock.
Boycott Downton Abbey, because the use of women’s bodies in this manner is completely unacceptable.
Boycott Downton Abbey, because up until this episode, it was a safe show for survivors to enjoy.
Boycott Downton Abbey.